A Difficult Task
“Are there any herbs or medicine that performs the color purple after a herbal decoction?”
“From my knowledge. I can’t recall any.” The owner shrugged.
“You haven’t seen any?” Rui doubted.
“We are just a small pharmacy, I am just an ordinary doctor,” The owner replied. “There could be rare materials that fit what you are trying to find, Master Rui. But I’ve only seen the most common medications.”
Disappointment again showed on the two’s faces, Rui let out a sign of frustrating defeat. They have already asked multiple local pharmacies. None have the answer they wanted. The two left with nothing in hand. It felt not too long, but it was already turning dark.
“Maybe this direction we are going towards isn’t ideal, I suggest that we change it up.” Rui’s voice turned heavy, with a clear lack of motivation.
Dee did not respond right away, he tapped on Rui’s shoulder, trying to cheer him up. After days and days of working, he really didn’t have time for any rest. Dee’s body is fatigued, but his mind is still storming with thoughts. However, he knows that time is his enemy and there is none to waste. “We can move on and investigate other things, we can always come back to this later,” Dee said.
In his mind, what was boiling in the pot could be very important to the solving of this case. Like before, Dee could sit in his basement and research information and find the answer that way. But it is far from the most efficient way. Every second in Dee’s world is like gold. A day has almost passed, and Dee still has no real idea of anything. Dee is definitely feeling the pressure, as he is sure the death of Doctor Li is no ordinary case.
The two quickly head back to the Royal Palace. Some of the people from Dali have already left, including Yuchi. The corpse appears to have already been transferred to the city morgue. Seeing people gone, Dee and Rui approached one of the room guards who are responsible for Doctor Li’s safety.
“For the past week,” Dee asked. “Who has ever been in contact with Doctor Li?”
“I’m…..” The guard seemed to have panicked a bit. “I don’t clearly remember, Master Dee. You should ask Ming, he is our leader and should know about this.”
Dee felt a bit suspicious that the guard had no information to offer. However, he did not question him. Dee told Rui to bring him Ming, the head guard.
After a few minutes, Rui came back with Ming. Dee briefly asked Ming about Doctor Li’s personal information, and most importantly, anywho that’s been in contact with him before death. Dee was waiting for an answer, as this piece of information can give them a valuable direction to build upon. However, disappointment quickly wrote on Dee’s face, again.
“For the past week, since the emergence of the disease,” Ming claimed. “Doctor Li has been working on finding a cure. He was a key factor in curing the peoples, thus, the emperor sent us to protect his safety night and day. I am responsible for my subordinate’s duties. I can assure you that, except for our guards and Doctor Li’s own maid, no one has been within three feet of him. Master Dee, I believe Doctor Li may have suicided.”
“What if it’s your subordinates that poisoned Doctor Li?” Rui, who was listening on the side, inquired.
Ming quickly kneeled down. “Master Rui, I promise to lord, all my people, including myself, are completely loyal to the Great Tang Dynasty.”
“No need to kneel,” Dee said. “A genius doctor poisoning himself is an unlikely occurrence. If really no suspicious one has been contacting Doctor Li, then there must be an alternative way to poison him. However, I still don’t fully trust your subordinates. Even though you’ve kept an eye on him, things might still get swept under the rug. As a detective of this case, I truly hope if you see any bit of suspicious activity by your subordinates, that you will be telling them to us.”
“Absolutely, Master Dee.”
“You better do what you promised,” Rui smirked.
Ming left through the front, entering the realm of darkness. Nighttime has already arrived, as the sky turns pitch black. Many others have left this room that is full of mysteries, but Dee is here to stay. He is eager to find more evidence, any that can help him see the image more clearly.
“Master Dee, we can head back if you want.” Rui noticed Dee completely gassed out. As Dee couldn’t resist the uncontrollable sleepiness. “We can wake up early tomorrow, I’m sure that tomorrow we can find more.”
“Are you sure it’s not that you want to go back?” Dee jokes. “Because I still have plenty of energy in the tank.”
“Obviously not. I’m young, I can even pull an all-nighter if I fancy to,” Rui bragged. “I’m just worried about your health, Master Dee. Like you’ve been working nonstop for several years now, I fear that your body will break down. Plus, you are like 100 years of age right now.”
Both of them let out loud waves of laughter. Obviously, Dee did not get offended. He and Rui would occasionally joke around, despite Rui being his assistant. In Dee’s heart, Rui is more of a friend, supportive and kind-hearted.
It wasn’t long before the two decided to head back home. It was a completely silent night, a daunting silence. The sound of Dee’s carriage became exceptionally obvious and eerie. Leaves carried by windfall on the streets of Chang’an, where no one could be seen. Lanterns put in the rivers have yet to be claimed, the fire wore out. Only a few dim lights remained bright. The city looks in its worst form. The normally shining lights are all extinguished. Chang’an, a city known for its magnificent images at night, was just a thing from the past.
Dee is in absolute exhaustion, but his mind could not be taken away from the case. Rui, who claimed to be able to pull an all-nighter, was resting beside him. Not often, a case will leave Dee clueless. It’s been a long time since Dee felt this much pressure and nerve. The last case that did so happened three years ago. Dee went over the case in his head all over again, but no abnormal thing was found.
On the entire ride back, Dee has been thinking, trying to make a plan for tomorrow’s investigation. “If tomorrow ended like today, it’s going to be a hard one to solve,” Dee thought to himself.
Soon the carriage would arrive at Dee’s place. Dee shook Rui awake, interrupting his comfort. Rui seemed to have slept the entire way, struggling to even hop off. They both returned back to their own room on the second floor, preparing for tomorrow. However, Dee still could not get his mind rested. He tossed and turned in bed for a long time before finally entering sweet dreams.
When Dee’s eyes opened It was the next morning. He got woken up by some chattering sounds coming from the downstairs area. He couldn’t hear what was going on. Normally guests don’t arrive this early in the morning. Dee quickly finished his regular morning routine and headed downstairs. Dee is still feeling a bit drowsy, but he is certainly ready for today.
“Would you mind waking Master Dee up?” Dee heard a man’s voice. The voice seemed awfully familiar.
“Normally Master Dee would be awake by now, what happened,” Another different, yet familiar voice said.
“I’ll call him down.” Another voice appeared, this time Dee recognized it being Rui’s.
Dee got to the first floor. Sitting at a table, there are a total of three people. Rui, Yuchi, and Master Yao. They greeted Dee as he sat together with them, Dee returned the respect. He then asked Yuchi and Master Yao their reason for such an early visit.
“We have bad news to tell you,” Yuchi said. Dee’s heart dropped to ground level, he certainly doesn’t like the sound of this. “Last night, general Sha, the famous, meritorious general of the Great Tang dynasty, had died in his room.”
Dee’s already troubled face just became more serious.
“I have the emperor’s edict for official Di Renjie,” Master Yao spoke up.
“Yes.” Dee bowed down.
“The emperor ordered. With the help from Dali, official Di Renjie will be responsible for solving the mysterious death of Doctor Li and General Sha, to find the truth and bring peace to the city. Official Di Renjie will also be responsible for protecting the whole city’s safety, on the upcoming Lantern Festival day.”
Master Yao handed the edict to Dee, who carefully received it. Then Dee said, “Long live my emperor.”
Dee didn’t feel particularly flabbergasted by the death of General Sha. He always felt that the death of Doctor Li had a bigger plan behind it, something linked with the masked people he saw on Spring Festival day. However, what shocked Dee is that the person killed was the famous General Sha. As a meritorious general, he is one of the most respected and important figures in the whole Tang dynasty. He has the best guards protecting his safety. In addition, General Sha himself is a strong and experienced warrior, it would be a nightmare to face him up. So, how can he be killed this easily?
“The emperor has also ordered all to meet at the Royal Palace by noon, as she wants to talk to everyone in person.” Master Yao added.
“Yes,” Dee replied.
Dee, Rui, and Yuchi, the three of them got on a carriage sent by the emperor. They are making their way to the Royal Palace. Master Yao got on another carriage in front of them. Inside their carriage, seated two others. Both of them are dressed all black head to toe. The two are wearing a wooden scabbard on their waist, one of them wielding his sword around. On their scabbard is inlaid a golden dragon, curling with style. Dee recognized this golden dragon, a symbol of the Dragon Guardians. This is a group that, when significant events happen, gathers by the emperor and is ordered to protect people’s safety. The two consecutive deaths have definitely become a significant event in the emperor’s eyes. Thus, the Dragon Guardians are reformed.
Dee remembered the last time these Dragon Guardians existed. It was five years ago when reportedly an attempted murder of the emperor happened. This is really the only information Dee knows about them. The Dragon Guardians are a very mysterious group, secretly working for the emperor. Many people do not even know their existence. Dee has only seen them once, five years ago in the Royal Palace. Today would be the first time Dee has met them up close.
The five people seated awkwardly beside, curiously examining each other. Finally breaking the awkwardness, one of the men from the Dragon Guardian spoked. “My name is Ke.” He offered his hand to whoever shook back.
“Shun,” The other one introduced.
“We are the Dragon Guardians,” Ke explained. “Through the investigation processes, we will be protecting you all, to the best of our ability.”
“I am Yuchi, this is Master Dee and Rui.”
“Just call me Dee.”
“Long admired, Master Dee,” Ke exclaimed, bowing in the sense of respect.
“I’ve never heard of Dragon Guardians.” Rui had a look of puzzlement crossed his face.
“The Dragon Guardians are basically…..” Ke introduced.
They had a good conversation along the way. Some shared stories of themselves and got to know each other pretty well.
Dee and all others entered the Emperor’s Palace together. After greeting the emperor, they quickly got to their assigned spot. The emperor did not begin right away, restlessly walking back and forth. She seemed to be waiting for more people’s arrival. Soon after, a pack of men marched in. From their looks, Dee knows that they are from Dali. At the front of the pack is Xun, their leader. Xun and Dee were long-time friends before they developed a conflict. Xun and his pack stopped beside Dee, the two gave each other a look, but no words were spoken.
“Now that everyone is here,” The emperor announced in her loud voice. “We shall get right to the point.”
The emperor walked over close to Xun and Dee. The two quickly bowed down.
“You two have already read my edict,” She said forcefully. “What happened last night was surprising and terrifying. The effects of it can damage our dynasty. If the two murders are done by one person or one group, I’m truly scared that they would brutally kill more of our officials. I have granted you two the responsibility of anything relating to this event, we shall not let things like this damage our dynasty.”
She paused, then walked towards Ke.“It certainly might be a tall task, they have just killed our own General Sha. I have reason to believe the killer or killers are trained, and their plans are definitely evil.”
“These people are the Dragon Guardians, they are the helpers that I’ve sent to assist,” The emperor introduced. She then walked back towards the two, her voice smoothened and quiet down. “I know you two had conflicts in the past, however, I do hope you two can bury the hatchet, work together to help out our dynasty.”
The two looked at each other, then Xun spoke. “My dear emperor, I fear the whole of Dali can not support this task. As if all of our people are gone, no one would be in charge of public security. I can only provide little bits of support towards Master Dee.”
“I agree,” Dee suggested. “If too many people are involved in this task, it might alert the public and the killers. I think it’s better if fewer people are involved. I can lead a group to solve the cases, Master Xun can lead his group to protect the public and to protect you, my emperor.”
“I trust you guys.” The emperor did not get mad at their idea. “As long as it’s the best for the dynasty, I’m fine with whatever is decided.”
“Thank you, my emperor.”
Soon, all would be dismissed. Everyone made their way out of the Emperor’s Palace. Just outside of the palace, Dee found Xun and Ke. The two are leaders to their respective groups, so it’s key to communicate with them.
“So, I need people to assist me with this,” Dee said.
“I can help,” suggested Yuchi. He stared at Xun, who appeared not to be happy by Yuchi ruthlessly joining in the conversation.
“If I have permission,” He then quickly added.
“You may help him.” Xun gave a reply, then left without speaking another word. As his shadow moves further and further, Dee knows that Xun and he still have an unsolved problem, even to this day.
“Yuchi, you can bring two or three people with you, not too much,” Dee advised Yuchi, turning around towards Ke. “I can take three of your subordinates, the rest can help protect the public and most importantly our emperor.”
“How about him?” Ke pointed towards Shun, the person that they met on the carriage. Shun is built tall, slender. He has a mysterious look, an unusual untied long hair, blowing in the wind. He also seemed like a very cold person, face as dead as a dead corpse. On the way here, he did not say anything. Shun has that mysterious aura surrounding him that can scare people away. “Shun is one of the best swordsmen I’ve ever witnessed, he also knows about Kung Fu, he can surely protect your safety.”
Dee nodded, approving Ke’s selection. He has actually heard of Shun’s name before, people around Dee say that Shun is a genius when it comes to the art of wielding swords in fights.
Ke turned towards Shun and muttered some words to him.
“Shun will bring two of his subordinates. They will be listening to your order from here on.” Ke smiled, turning back around. “I’ll always be around the palace protecting the emperor, anything you need just come and find me.”
Then, Ke suddenly plunged his face close to Dee, he whispered. “Shun is actually from Japan, he doesn’t like to talk that much. So he might be a little problematic at times. However, he is very obedient. Just make sure to treat him nice.”
“I sure will. Have a good day.” Dee appreciated Ke’s corporation. Dee and the others left the palace immediately. Just like this, in total, the eight people formed an investigation crew ordered to solve the city’s now most disturbing case.